Newley's Notes

Newley’s Notes 120: Apple’s New HomePod; Exercise Data Dangers; Silent Music Videos


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📲 5 Cool Tech-ish Reads This Week

1. Apple’s HomePod is coming. The $349 voice-activated speaker, which was supposed to launch before the holidays, will be in stores beginning Feb. 9, my WSJ colleague Tripp Mickle reports. It’ll have to play catchup to Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home devices. At The Verge, Dieter Bohn writes:

The bet on the HomePod is the same as the bet on almost every new Apple product: that the spec list doesn’t add up to the whole experience. It’s a bet that there will be some special Apple design magic in the hardware and the software that just makes it feel better to use.

We’ll see.

2. Amazon’s cashierless convenience store opened to the public. Recode has a bunch of photos of the shop, located in Seattle. You scan an app when you walk in, and cameras in the ceiling match you to your account; you’re billed when you walk out. More in a separate Recode story here. With Amazon buying Whole Foods, it’s clear they’re moving into physical retail in a big way.

3. File under: Whoops. A reminder that our connected devices give off data exhaust: Fitness tracking app Strava released a map based on more than 3 trillion GPS data points around the world — such as where people exercise outside — showing the location of U.S. miliary personnel, Alex Hern writes in The Guardian:

In locations like Afghanistan, Djibouti and Syria, the users of Strava seem to be almost exclusively foreign military personnel, meaning that bases stand out brightly. In Helmand province, Afghanistan, for instance, the locations of forward operating bases can be clearly seen, glowing white against the black map.


… a map of Homey Airport, Nevada – the US Air Force base commonly known as Area 51 – records a lone cyclist taking a ride from the base along the west edge of Groom Lake, marked on the heatmap by a thin red line.

The map in its entirety is available online here.

4. “The Follower Factory.” This in depth New York Times story illuminates the murky world of social media manipulation, focusing on a little-known U.S. company called Devumi, which “sells Twitter followers and retweets to celebrities, businesses and anyone who wants to appear more popular or exert influence online.”

5. is a blog (and soon to be book) about fonts in sci-fi movies. Nerd out on examinations of “2001: A Space Odyssey,“, “Alien,” and — my favorite, of course — “Bladerunner.”

🍔 Quote of the week

Whopper neutrality was repealed. They voted on it.

That’s from an entertaining video explainer/advertisement in which Burger King gives the world its take on net neutrality — using burgers.

💫 1 Silly Thing

“Silent Music Videos.” After the item in last week’s NN about Wookies dubbed to sound like Pee-Wee Herman, reader Lee LeFever writes in with a couple of gems.

People are now, it appears, creating new versions of music videos — and inserting non-musical audio. The result is quite bemusing.

Here’s David Bowie and Mick Jagger’s “Dancing in the Street,” and Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball.” Thanks, Lee!

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,


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